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Trap Effect

Klaus Schoenbach


The “trap effect” of communication is a metaphor for an effect specifically on the uninterested, unmotivated, uninvolved members of the audience ( Schoenbach & Weaver 1985 ). Those people are “trapped” and subsequently influenced by any type of communication that is frequent and striking enough to overcome their weak resistance. They do not care enough to raise the threshold against attempts to teach them something (→  Media Effects ). Originally, the trap effect was ascribed only to television and its political impact, accompanied by pedagogical hopes that television does good things to those citizens that other media cannot reach and influence – activates them politically, for instance ( Blumler 1970 ; Noelle-Neumann 1970 ). In a key article, Blumler (1970) listed some possible reasons for such an effect of television. Political coverage on television, Blumler assumed, reaches more people than any other channel, and consequently also those who would not bother to turn to that type of information in other media. Because of its visual nature and its credibility, television may also be particularly persuasive (→  Credibility of Content ). Finally, the uninterested among its viewers, once confronted by persuasive messages, could be particularly prone to be persuaded because “an uninvolved audience is a potentially persuasible audience” ( Blumler 1970 ; →  Persuasion ). Possible ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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